Teacher Gives Full Math Lesson in HALF-LIFE: ALYX

Game developer and publisher Valve has just released its stunningly realistic VR game, Half-Life: Alyx, and people around the world are already getting their hands on in the game. But while many players are already exploring City 17 and battling an invading alien empire, one teacher took it upon himself to give a remote math lesson in the game by utilizing its now-infamous—yes, it’s apparently already infamous—dirty greenhouse window and markers.

Although Alyx has only been out for a matter of days, players have already discovered plenty of the game’s interactive details, including the ability to offer a cigarette to a rat, as well as the ability to play a fully functioning piano. But, as of right now, the most entertaining feature, according to endless screenshots and gameplay videos online, is a handful of dry erase markers and an eraser. You can use them to draw on a rooftop greenhouse’s windows. (The feature was discovered by a player with the moniker, Quin69, who streamed his excitement over the find, as well as his subsequent NSFW artwork, on Twitch.)

Charles Coomber, a purchaser of Alyx and teacher at Otay Ranch Academy for the Arts in San Diego, California, decided to use the functional markers, eraser, and dirty window to teach a remote math lesson as a way to deal with the COVID-19 lockdown in the state. In the video lesson description on YouTube, Coomber writes “Review of Angle Vocabulary for Homeschooling Week because I have to teach today, but Half Life Alyx just came out.”

Coomber’s 7th grade math lesson, which was posted to reddit by user scrolling2654, goes on for about 15 minutes, covers topics such as adjacent angles and supplementary angles, and is bookended by a couple of brief snapshots of the rundown, dystopian City 17. The “bonus content” at the end of the lesson shows Coomber giving a tour of a rundown building that serves as one of the earliest settings of the game’s campaign. “Teachers get paid tons of money, so I can pick anywhere to live that I want and I’ve chosen this apartment complex,” Coomber quips.

For those completely unfamiliar with Alyx, it’s a narrative prequel to Half-Life 2. It follows Alyx Vance and her father, Eli Vance, as they attempt to fight off the Combine, an alien empire that has taken control of Earth. According to VRScout, the game’s campaign takes roughly 10-15 hours to complete, and, of course, features plenty of gunplay, puzzle solving, and gravity defying physics.

Teacher Gives Full Math Lesson in HALF-LIFE: ALYX_1

Coomber illustrating his lesson on a dirty window with the Vault in the background.

As for how Coomber’s students received his lesson, it’s hard to say, as comments on the YouTube video appear to be from random strangers. But considering the fact that the video now has (as of this writing) roughly 300,000 views, as well as Coomber’s penchant for leading electives such as “Comics & Manga,” “Board Games & TCG,” and “RPG Club,” we’re going to go ahead and guess that the kids loved it. Even if they didn’t get to shoot any Combine baddies.

What do you think about this Half-Life: Alyx math lesson? Do you wish more teachers would teach this way, or do you think gaming and learning should be kept separate? Invade the comments section with your opinions, class!

Images: Charles Coomber

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